If the NHS isn’t willing to extend coverage for mental illness, a great majority of people simply won’t be able to be healthy, physically or mentally.
Eris Young is an author, fantasy writer and Marbles contributor. They’re working with Knights Errant Press to bring the anthology – Quarrels with the Gender Binary – into the world, which you can pre-order here. They’re also performing at our event at Edinburgh Science Festival’s Wellbeing Cafe on Sun Apr 1st. We nabbed them for a chat about dysphoia, insomnia and the inevitable intertangling of different varieties and degrees of mental health.
On their mental health
My first diagnosis ever was for ADHD when I was about 10. I haven’t taken meds for that in years, but as I’ve started to grow my career and write more regularly, ADHD is something I’ve thought more and more about getting treatment for. Not meds as those are horrible (though maybe not as bad now as when I was a kid), but maybe some sort of CBT if there is such a thing. I’ve also been officially (I think) diagnosed with depression. This was during a very bad depressive episode while I was an undergrad. Luckily, I was an undergrad, because I got access to a therapist who specialised in depression, anxiety and gender dysphoria – all of which I had. Therapy with her made me a lifelong believer in CBT.
Finally, of course, there’s gender dysphoria, which is an aspect of being transgender that can actually constitute a mental illness. I don’t have dysphoria anymore but I received treatment for it in the form of therapy and hormones – proof that these things work! I think I’m quite lucky nowadays, I think moving countries, getting my first full-time job and generally being out in the world has helped me a lot. I was sheltered, fussy and anxious as a kid, and I’m a lot less so now. I think it has a whole lot to do with being (or at least feeling) in control of my life – hormones and being able to present how I like helps with this, and having an independent income really helps too. Having something to devote my free time (perhaps too much of it) to, like writing, has given me a huge sense of purpose. So my mental health now is better than it’s maybe been since I was ten.
I usually write about my mental health in light of other things, especially my gender identity. For Marbles I had some fun writing about insomnia, which has been a plague on my life for at least a decade. It – and my other essays about mental health – are kind of my way of wresting back something good from the clutches of this horrible monster that’s been bothering me for years.
On the lighter side of life
I can laugh about things nowadays. Funny stuff doesn’t really tend to happen to me but, I suppose all the bullshit I went through to acquire hormone therapy is a bit absurd since I was barely functioning as a human at that time.
On normalising mental health issues
I think the most essential thing for people, especially mental health professionals, to know is how interconnected all the various aspects of my mental health are. You couldn’t have treated my depression and anxiety without treating my dysphoria, for example. A holistic approach that looks at multiple aspects of the patient’s mental state, is, I think, the best way to go about things. I haven’t been in therapy in years and never in the UK so maybe that is the way that they do it over here!
I also think that mentally healthy people don’t realise how physical an effect mental illness can have on a person. Depression and anxiety, and the underlying things that can cause them like dysphoria and minority stress, can have a very visceral, physical impact that can be debilitating. If the NHS isn’t willing to extend coverage for mental illness, a great majority of people simply won’t be able to be healthy, physically or mentally.
On what they’re up to
I’m working on crowdfunding an anthology with Knight Errant Press, called Quarrels with the Gender Binary. I think it’s going to be an amazing book (I’ve contributed a science fiction short story!) but we’re still not fully funded and there’s only a few days left in the campaign, which ends Mon Mar 12. If readers could check out the page and consider pledging that would be fab!